I've never been much of a tea drinker. I didn't drink it at all until our third trip to Japan, in 2006. We were wandering around Okayama's beautiful Koraku-en gardens, beneath falling cherry blossoms, when we came to a stall selling green tea from the small rows of tea plants within the garden's bounds. Purchasing a cup of matcha, the whisked powdered green tea and a small plate of "sweets" we sat outside the stall and rested our legs.
Later on in that trip, in Kanazawa, we had stopped by the Nomura Samurai house, with it's gorgeous garden and carp streams squeezed into a tiny area. Upstairs, in a room overlooking the garden matcha was served for a small fee. We rested on the straw tatami mat floor in front of a heater warming our cold hand and sipped the bitter green tea. The flavour itself was not of great importance to me. It was the sense of calm, of weary feet rested, of warmth both inner and outer.
Since then I have learned to enjoy a cup of green tea when offered during trips to Japan. Nibbling on Botchan Dango sweets with a cup of tea after a soak in Matsuyama's Dogo bathhouse and sitting on the tatami flooring in a teahouse in Takamatsu's Ritsurin-en gardens , listening and feeling the warm breeze flowing through the open shoji screens while sipping tea were two of the highlights of our last trip.
I recently purchased a Japanese teapot and cups, porcelain with an iron clay exterior decorated with cherry blossoms, from a Japan City shop. For weeks now I have hoped to snatch some time away from Alex, work and sleep to brew the fine green tea leaves we brought back from Kyoto. Finally this evening I found that time.
I have never brewed tea before, only used teabags, and that was for the benefit of others. I followed the instructions, poured the tea into the cherry blossom teacup and sat down at the table with a rice and red bean sweet bought from a Japanese store in the city. As I sipped the gentle, sweet, pale green liquid I watched the rain falling across the grey and gold evening sky and the white cloud fish swimming between the lucky bamboo in the globe on the table. And I felt relaxed, in another place where babies only smile, emails are calligraphy on scrolls and deadlines are when the water has boiled.
A holiday in a teacup.
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